Matsuzaka (3-2, 4.36 ERA), the former Seibu Lions ace who signed a $52 million, six-year deal with the Red Sox (17-9) last offseason, made his home debut for Boston on April 10. The first batter he faced was Suzuki, the outfielder who won seven straight batting titles and three MVP awards in Japan before joining the Mariners in 2001—when he won the AL MVP and rookie of the year awards.
Hundreds of press credentials were issued for the event, and the first pitch occurred amidst a loud, sell-out crowd and numerous flashbulbs from cameras.
“That was a moment that probably only Daisuke and I could have created,” Suzuki said through a translator. “To be in that moment, I’m happy.”
Suzuki grounded back to Matsuzaka in that at-bat, and ended up going 0-for-4 against the right-hander. However, the Mariners reached Matsuzaka for three runs and eight hits in seven innings, while Felix Hernandez pitched a one-hitter to give Seattle a 3-0 win.
Matsuzaka has given up a total of 10 runs in his last two starts—both against the New York Yankees—but the Boston offense supported him with 13 runs, enabling him to win both outings. Last Friday at New York, Matsuzaka allowed four runs over six innings as the Red Sox won 11-4.
Control problems plagued him in a fourth inning where he walked the first three batters, yielded all four Yankee runs and threw 41 pitches.
“If I got into all the things that happened in the fourth inning, it would be a very long story,” Matsuzaka said. “So to keep a long story short, I think there are technically a few things I need to work on.”
Matsuzaka faces what has suddenly become one of the hottest teams in baseball. The Mariners (12-10) have won three straight games and seven of eight after a six-game losing streak, a surprising turnaround for a club coming off three consecutive last-place finishes in the AL West.
“It’s definitely a different club offensively. (Jose) Vidro and (Jose) Guillen definitely make our lineup more legitimate. … You wouldn’t think two guys would add that much, but they have.”
Vidro, who was acquired from Washington in December, went 1-for-3 and scored a run Wednesday to raise his season average to .315. Guillen, who also spent last season with the Nationals before signing with Seattle, hit his third home run of 2007.
The Mariners send left-hander Horacio Ramirez (2-1, 4.41) to the mound for the opener of a challenging road trip, which will feature four games at Yankee Stadium followed by three at reigning AL champion Detroit.
Ramirez had his best start of the season last Friday, when he limited Kansas City to one run over 6 1-3 innings of Seattle’s 7-4 victory. He has never faced the Red Sox, who are a major league-best 5-1 this season when facing a left-handed starter.
Boston has alternated wins and losses in its last five games, including Wednesday night’s 6-4 victory over Oakland to salvage a two-game series split. Every Red Sox batter had at least one hit, and Josh Beckett threw seven solid innings to become the first pitcher in the majors to reach six wins.